Archive | In My Mind’s I by Harriet Gross

We are losing a generation of giving people

Posted on 11 July 2019 by admin

My last uncle, Irwin, has died. His seven sisters — my mother and my aunts — are long gone, as are his four brothers.
It is sad, frightening and humbling to lose the last survivor of a whole generation, the generation of those rocks upon which I have built a whole life.
Today, people worry about the Millennials and, now, the so-called Z Generation already following them — the “Z” signifying the last. Maybe our society has run out of names for those who will be born later. But for me, my uncle’s generation was the true last generation of Americans who were willing to put their lives on the line, quite literally, to save the world.
And my uncle was one of them.
As you read this, I am in Pittsburgh. Uncle Irwin’s funeral was yesterday. I now know the answer to the question I asked myself, but no other: “Who will wear the black ribbon for him?” I wrote his obituary for the local daily and the Jewish weekly, and, in doing so, compiled two long lists: first, all those who preceded him in death; second, all of us who have followed him in the family.
The first list was long; the second was much longer. I named only direct descendants of his own first-degree relatives, for all of whom are dead. But their progeny totaled more than 40, and, with him, numbered five generations. To lose him, our only link with a whole part of our past, is to say goodbye to an irreplaceable part of our history.
I love Dallas, my adopted city. But Pittsburgh, my birth city, is forever the home of my heart. If you can look past last year’s Tree of Life Synagogue massacre, because something like that could have happened anywhere, you will agree with me that it’s an excellent place for Jews to live.
There are many synagogues and places to buy and eat kosher. There is a Jewish Federation, a community center, a Holocaust Memorial and Jewish schools. While Pittsburgh doesn’t have many Jewish schools, I’d argue that less is more.
Because Pittsburgh’s Jewish community is smaller, those who are part of it recognize how important such Jewish institutions are. People who do not keep kosher at home support the kosher businesses, because they know that without them, their city would not be somewhere that all Jews could live comfortably.
It’s even a good place to die: There is only one full-service Jewish funeral home, where everyone Jewish is memorialized and buried from. It’s consistent in its services and provides comfort in closeness with its community.
My uncle, age 96, was a product of this community. A self-made wealthy man, he gave generously to charities and to his own family. He anticipated needs and met them without being asked. Until his death, he was putting others before himself.
We will always laugh through tears at the experience one of my cousins had when visiting Uncle “Srol,” a nickname derived from his Hebrew name, “Yisroel.”)
Just two days before his death, David, just wanted to hold his hands and talk to him, no expectations, nothing more.
And the response he got was, “Why are you here? Don’t you have some errands to run?” How many who are literally on their deathbeds could make a comment like that?
So, as I write this, looking back and moving forward, I am full of tears, but not crying. Not yet.
Because I’m sure that, by the time you are reading this, many would already have cried with me yesterday.

Comments (0)

The burdens of intergenerational Jewish trauma

Posted on 03 July 2019 by admin

There’s a new book, just coming out that I hope every Jew, everywhere, will read. It’s that important.
The author is Tirzah Firestone, a psychotherapist who’s also among the newest and sometimes controversial breed of our spiritual leaders: a Jewish Renewal rabbi. Her book is entitled “Wounds into Wisdom,” subtitled “Healing Intergenerational Jewish Trauma.”
When I see “trauma” in a Jewish book title, I immediately think “Holocaust.” And in this case, I was right. But also, very wrong. Let me explain.
When Firestone was 25, she had a nightmare that foreshadowed her learning of its truth — that a full 15 years later, her Austro-Hungarian grandmother and all her family, had died in the Shoah. Such silence can subtly transmit that untold burden to its younger generations.
But before the knowing came the trauma’s after-effects. Firestone was one of six children, each of whom went off in a different direction, breaking away by various means to escape the home life structured by something they knew nothing about. Basically, all ran from the ultra-Orthodox lifestyle of their parents, who tried to re-create for them Jewish lives of earlier times: marriage with homemaking and motherhood for the girls, yeshiva study and scholarship for the boys. Rabbi Firestone calls this “the paradox of survival.” They learned, firsthand, what is central to this book: “How often hardened hearts were the tragic byproduct of wounds incurred long ago and never healed.”
She connects and applies her learning to those who, having experienced other forms of trauma, consciously or unconsciously repeat or re-enact them. “Abuse victims tend to attract abusive situations,” she said. “Veterans of war re-deploy. And, entire ethnic groups can find themselves again and again under attack, fighting back endlessly.” This latter gave her new eyes, new understanding, when an Israeli friend did something to help him overcome the loss of his daughter to a suicide bomber. He joined a group of Jews and Palestinians who lost children in the ongoing conflicts, to fight their pain and grieve together.
There is hope along with great sadness throughout this affecting book. Firestone left the religion she knew, with its obedience-demanding practice in the home of her youth, then returned to it in a newer, more forgiving form, to become both a practitioner of psychotherapy and a rabbi in the most modern stream of today’s American Judaism. But she does not tell us the most important truth of all until the end of this book. I wonder if that telling — this most painful story of unresolved intergenerational Jewish trauma — is why she has written this volume.
The author’s brother Daniel, 10 years her elder, was their parents’ dream-come-true: a first-born brilliant boy, schooled from his earliest days in traditional Judaism, in its ancient wisdoms and revered texts, a pride-maker whose future in Jewish scholarship was assured. And then, he left. Not having ever known anything outside the world of Jewish scholarship, he wanted to explore that other life for himself. The head of his yeshiva tried to reason with him, but finally, angrily, gave a warning: “You will die by age 30.” And after tasting other appealing religions and finding them not quite so tasty, he died a suicide — just past his 30th birthday.
Tirza Firestone’s conclusion shocks me. She posits that all Jews suffer trauma just because of who we are, from the burdens we carry as God’s “chosen,” from the responsibility for survival inherent in our Judaism, from the inescapable knowledge that we are charged with that survival, because it is the reason for our existence, not as individuals, but as the people of which every Jew is a part. That the past, for each of us, in our families and in our faith, never really disappears.
What do you think about that?

Comments (0)

A trip through the ‘Begging Drawer’

Posted on 27 June 2019 by admin

We are at the year’s midpoint, so it’s time for me to empty the “Begging Drawer” once again.
This special drawer is reserved for a single purpose: It’s where I put solicitations as I receive them. My usual time of giving is year’s end, but that doesn’t stop the year-round flow of begging letters. And each one also offers a gift. Maybe a note pad, maybe a bookmark or two, but most often a sheet of personalized name-and-address labels. The first two, I pull out and keep on hand for potential future use.
As for the third, I can remember a time when I actually paid to have personalized name-and-address labels printed! Now, I have this inundation of freebies. I guess I’m supposed to feel guilty or thankful enough to send another contribution each time one arrives, but I don’t. However, I do save the labels, in a large bag near the basket that holds my all-purpose and personalized stationery and an assortment of cards for all occasions. I write lots of letters and notes, but my basket and bag both bulge all the time. And the Begging Drawer only closes because I go through its contents quarterly to weed out all duplicates.
For the most part, this system works for me. But, I’m confounded by the membership cards that accompany many of these letters. I didn’t think I’d joined anything by making a single year-end contribution, which I will do again at the end of this calendar year. I didn’t know that the membership I didn’t know I had is expiring now, or will expire soon, and I am supposed to renew it immediately. Which I do not, and will not.
Let me explain: I try to be a generous giver. I support many causes —for animals, for fighting diseases, for helping sick children, for research of various kinds, for educational institutions and organizations to which I feel connected. In our Jewish community, most renewals of giving — be they for memberships or annual fundraising — are requested as our own New Year approaches, so those I take care of on that schedule. And, I give thanks that many — but not all — of these groups do not keep reminding me all year long that it’s time to give again.
My “problem,” if that’s what it is, is that I grew up in a home of Great Depression-era parents. Even today, I cannot bear to throw away anything that might somehow, ever, become useful in the future. I end up with a collection: thin flannel blankets, cardboard “coasters” for drink glasses, enough bookmarks for more books than anyone could possibly be reading at the same time, and — most of all — the name-and-address labels. I keep them so I have choices. I can always find something with a completely appropriate design to identify my envelope personally when I hand-write letters and notes.
Don’t misunderstand. I love email for its immediacy, and because I can type much faster than I can handwrite. But there is something old-fashionedly wonderful about sending something that recipients will hold in their hands, and maybe even keep, if they’re so inclined. Emails are elusive, ephemeral. Envelopes with name-and-address labels carry at least an illusion of personal attention and permanence.
So now, my goal — and I think I may actually reach it before it’s my time to exit this world — is to amass enough of those stickers to paper a small room. The only drawback would be that this might give me a problem when the time comes that I’m ready to sell my home. So maybe I should just keep stuffing those name-and-address labels into that already bulging bag, and having the fun of picking out something truly personalized for each one who will receive an envelope from me.
As for now, however, it’s time for me to get on with the task at hand. The Begging Drawer awaits, and here I come!

Comments (0)

Seeing an end in Weisberg’s ‘In the End’

Posted on 20 June 2019 by admin

Kudos to Dallas’ Michael Weisberg, who has just published his second work of fiction.
I happily endorsed his first novel, “The Hospitalist,” not only as a good read, but because I felt the author was sharing a view that agreed with my own: The major contribution of this new breed of “healer” keeps patients even further separated from their own physicians.
But this new book, “In the End,” is quite different. It presents a larger cast of characters as the complex individuals they are. The reader quickly gets to know and understand Gabriel, a gastroenterologist patterned after the author, who tells us that his “real life” patients often ask him what the meaning of life really is. And, as you read, you may find clues to an always-elusive answer in the Jewishness apparent throughout the text.
We quickly learn that Gabriel can’t really answer the question himself because his own son, a promising young man, died from a cancer he had been unable to diagnose. So, we understand Gabriel’s concern about a wealthy woman who had first come to him a year before for a colonoscopy, and was sent home happy with the test’s negative findings, only to return again to repeat the ordeal. Gabriel wonders, “Did I miss something?”
We learn how difficult this test is, for doctor as well as patient, and meet the team that works with him: the nurse, the anesthesiologist, the physician assistant. As individuals, they represent major subgroups that are constants on the radar screen of today’s society: the abused woman, the gay man, the young black trying to overcome the difficulties of his heritage. All are fully developed characters, each with a subplot that lets us know them — as we do Gabriel — outside of office and operating theater. Each has a dream of achievement and happiness, and for each, it appears that there may be light at the end of a dark tunnel, the elusive pot of gold at the end of life’s often not-so-beautiful rainbow.
But then, everything changes in a single instant.
Our author uses history and current events as the backdrop for the lead-in to the surprising end of “In the End,” which begins — literally — with a bang. The Big Bang, as a matter of fact. Gabriel is spared the agony of having to tell his patient that this colonoscopy does not have the good results of her earlier one; while he is agonizing over whether or not this is something new, whether he might have missed something the last time, the End arrives. And we, the readers, move with it — out of the medical realities of today into the province of futurists, into the realm of science fiction; we are there as the atom bomb falls and takes everyone away.
What, then, is the meaning of life? To answer this, Weisberg takes us far, far into the future, into an imagined 2,000 years’ afterlife, for what might be one possible answer.
All writers write from what they know. Even science fiction writers are no different. Instead of writing only about what they know for certain, they take what they know today and project where this knowledge might put them tomorrow — even into 2,000 years of tomorrows. Weisberg takes a daring leap here, and invites you to take it with him. Accept that invitation, read the final chapters of this book with the wide-open eyes of imagination, and perhaps you’ll agree that this could be one answer to defining the meaning of life.

Comments (0)

Tackling your stash of family photos

Posted on 13 June 2019 by admin

Today, I’m thinking about pictures. Old family pictures. What is the perverse magic that makes people honor filled-to-the-brim boxes with promises that “someday” we’ll go through them all — and then miss them terribly in cases of hurricane or fire, when the first thing survivors do (after crying) is look through rubble, trying to find those old pictures?
I’m thinking now about a wonderful short editorial by Nancy Black, who runs the White Rock Weekly, a paper I read faithfully every Friday after picking it up at my Rotary meeting site. This, she said, was inspired by a call from a friend who, in the midst of downsizing, ran into a photo of a strange male with an even stranger inscription on its back: “The Last Picture of Stanley.” Who was Stanley? And why was this his last picture?
My son and I were luckier when we were recently together at the old house that has sheltered at least one member of our large extended family since 1945, and decided that — since many had promised, but no one had made good on that promise — we would take on the task of doing something with several large boxes of pictures — all ages, all types, all sizes — all jumbled up together.
We were remarkably lucky to find rather quickly that many of the pictures in the first box had full identifications on the back — thanks to one of my aunts, who had taken many pictures herself in her own lifetime and scrupulously scrapbooked them all. We blessed her for taking on these photos as well. And we found it was actually fun to identify what we could, and sort them by which of today’s family members should be their recipients.
I came home with a small suitcase full of pictures, neatly divided, and sent them promptly to new — permanent, I hoped — homes. That was fun! But then came another large batch from my son, who had found another box and used what we’d figured out together to do the best he could with these “newbies.” And I now have all of them, to check over, sort out and send on their various ways. (My sister, I know will be overjoyed that she will now, finally, have the “pony picture” that she’s been missing for decades.) At some time during my life as a child, almost every kid had a pony picture. I never did. Truth be told, I never missed having one taken — until recently, when I saw my sister’s.
In our “research,” my son and I came up with a few “Stanleys,” but not one that was tagged as a final picture. That kind of message on a photo’s back, unaccompanied by anything more, opens up many possibilities — not all of them pleasant. Had Stanley passed away? Or had he, for some reason of his own, refused to ever have another likeness taken of him? Maybe he had suffered a facial or other injury he never wanted recorded for posterity? Maybe — as did an old high school classmate of mine — he joined an order of monks that practices silence, and totally avoids photography?
I could go on wondering like this for much longer, but I’d rather just encourage you to go through that photo stash you’ve avoided for ages. Just as we did, you’ll find some of it challenging (names with no dates, or the opposite), venues vaguely familiar but not specified, great family gatherings with no clue as to what and where. Our old house now holds only a small number of such unidentified pictures, and whenever we have the next big family get-together, we’ll spread them all out and let everyone have a go at identification. I’m looking forward to that, whenever it may be.
So — why not tackle your own stash of random photos soon? No guarantee you won’t find some unsolvable mystery like Stanley’s last picture. But I can guarantee you’ll have a lot of fun!

Comments (0)

Trips to France and Israel are essential

Posted on 06 June 2019 by admin

Today is June 6, a date that should never be forgotten in our American history, or in the history of the world. It was exactly 75 years ago when American troops landed on France’s Normandy beaches, marking a costly and painful beginning to what was actually to be the end of World War II.
It’s called “D-Day.” But, what’s the reason? In American war language, any big battle or military operation is marked with a D, which itself stands for Day. The day before it then becomes D minus 1, and the day after is D plus 1. But the day itself is D alone.
I can remember Pearl Harbor — December 7, 1941 — and also remember May 8, 1945 — when the great war officially ended.
The first was a time of surprise, terror, and quick mobilization that included immediate enlistment of many young men into military service. I was too young to be concerned. But, I was old enough to remember the rejoicing of the second when, as an almost 11-year-old girl, I joined my friends as we threaded crepe paper through the spokes of our new two-wheelers and rode around the neighborhood, adding that sound to the overall cacophony. Those were our first real bikes, the same ones we’d ridden around the neighborhood not quite one month before, minus the noisy paper, in silent tribute to the passing of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. No one will ever know if he would do as his successor, Harry S. Truman, had done — ordered the atomic bombings of Japan, the brutality that finally ended that brutal war.
My husband Fred and I were fortunately able to take many trips together before his life ended. One of the most essential was to visit those Normandy beaches, to see in person the places that, at such great human cost to our own country, heralded the end of the war in Europe. We made this visit via a river boat on the Seine. That trip showed us much more of France before and after we spent some time on what we had most wanted to visit. We had already viewed gritty films of the landing that took so many young American lives, but to stand there oneself was another kind of experience — one that was, in a way, even more real.
Then, after exploring other significant markers and parts of the area, we went to the cemetery that is the final resting place of so many of the men who died in that landing, and afterward. The rows and rows of crosses — punctuated at various intervals by Stars of David — evoked the World War I poem “In Flanders Fields.” But here, there were also live women and girls, area residents handing flowers to those who would like some to mark a grave; a perpetual promise was made to do this by the women who lived at the time of the beachhead, and it has been carried out by their descendants. And there are stones, as well, for marking the graves of our Jewish dead.
As I said: Fred and I were among those lucky enough to have seen many sights of our great world: the signature Mer-Lion of Singapore, the amazing Iguazu Falls between Brazil and Argentina that dwarf those of Niagara, China’s sad Tiananmen Square, the Holocaust remnants in Poland and the glories of Israel that have risen to repute that history by its very existence. It is never easy — maybe never even possible — to say which trip, which place, was “best of all.”
But, having been granted the great opportunity to visit so many interesting historic places, I must conclude this: that for every Jew, time in Israel must be at the top of the list. And, for every Jewish American, seeing the Normandy beaches should come second. Because those two have guaranteed all of us the freedoms and possibilities that — although these days they come under attack more often than they should — have yet to fail us.

Comments (0)

Rachofsky’s genius will be missed

Posted on 31 May 2019 by admin

Morton Rachofsky has left us, taking his incredibly creative mind with him into eternity. He — and it — will be sorely missed.
My son Sol is a clock collector, and he was the one who first told me how the 25-hour clock works. Not Mort, who invented it, and patented it in the form he originated. But at one gathering or another, I mentioned this to him, and he graciously invited me to his studio, to see his most unusual clock. And a lot of other very unusual things, too.
That was a long time ago. And on that day, he gave me one of those clocks to send to my son, who of course still has it. Sol has somehow learned that there are supposed to be 100 of these in existence; he’s trying to find out where all the other 99 are located.
You can learn a lot about Mort’s incredible invention simply by Googling his name and reading all the fascinating facts as they pop up for you. Try it! You’ll find that he himself was fascinated by the life cycles of isolated humans — past, and present: incarcerated people, for example, who do not wake and sleep on the same schedules that we free folks follow, the schedules set for us so long ago that we think they are “normal.”
Of course, the 24-hour day is a construct that began with the sundial. But remember the lyrics of that old “Lucky Lucky” song: “I work eight hours, I sleep eight hours, that leaves eight hours for fun.” Who decided that is how our day works? Mort sliced the 24 hours differently, to come up with 25 slightly shorter ones. The day’s actual length is still the same, but his clock is very different; he likened this to our twice-yearly adjustment for daylight saving time.
That should make us think! Who decided the workday should be eight hours? Who has proven that we all need eight hours of sleep every night? What kind of “fun” can be crammed into the remaining eight hours when we must cook, clean and chauffeur, not only using up all those hours, but finding they’re not enough?
Mort’s clock has the same amount of time as the sundial and as our standard clocks; it’s just that his is divided differently. It’s based on real human beings who, in their lives, do exactly that. It will never catch on as timing for everyone, but it wasn’t ever meant to; it was the end result of something that appealed to a very creative mind. Restructuring time in the form of a new clock was one of Mort’s most creative efforts. He was recognized for it by many publications, including People and Business Week Magazine and The New York Times. On TV, he explained this and his other sculptures, most of which are designed in pieces meant to be taken apart and rearranged — to suit himself at the moment, or by others who would enjoy playing with them.
Mort was a genius, a true “Renaissance Man.” A product of that long-gone but never-to-be-forgotten Jewish enclave of South Dallas, he was a proud alum of Texas A&M who later earned an MBA in finance, somehow managing to carry on a long, long real estate career that ran parallel to his art. We‘ll never know how he divided up his own day’s time, but surely it had more hours than the usual, and he knew how to make the most of them.
If you’d like to see one of Mort’s 25-hour clocks, visit the Museum of Geometric and MADI (“Movement-Abstraction-Dimension-Invention”) Art in Dallas. You’ll also find a varied selection of his many other works in local offices, institutions and private homes. But allow plenty of time for your search — at least 25 hours in every day. And if you locate any more clocks, please let me know, so I can tell my son!

Comments (1)

Abortion: then and now

Posted on 23 May 2019 by admin

Today’s topic shouldn’t surprise you. Like many other thinking women, I’m thinking about abortion. It’s an important topic for Jewish women — not just because we’re Jewish, but simply because we’re women.

I have two children. That’s what my husband and I wanted, and that’s the number of times I was pregnant. Both have long qualified for AARP and have children of their own, and my son is already a grandpa. But I well remember when he was just two, and in his pediatrician’s office, I remarked to the doctor what a handful a toddler was. “I don’t think I’ll be ready to go through this again for a long, long time,” I told him.

I trusted that doctor to care for my child, and he obviously trusted me, because this is how he responded: “Well, if something you don’t want should happen sooner than you want, I’ll take care of you.” Those were the days of back alleys, wire coat hangers and lots of blood. Although I didn’t really want to think about what he was saying, I couldn’t deny that his words were reassuring.

I knew then that no matter when I conceived, how “inconvenient” that timing might be (and really: Is there ever a “convenient” time for everything that comes along with a new baby?), I would never be able to have an abortion myself. But, in those “olden days,” I also knew at least one Jewish doctor was willing to do the illegal. By January 1973, when Roe v. Wade became U.S. law, my children were both teenagers, and I never took him up on his “offer.”

I had a good friend whose oldest child, a tall blond girl in her senior year of high school, became pregnant. She fell for a tall, blond Norwegian young man, and they made a beautiful couple. But when she became pregnant, she did not have an abortion. Instead, she was “sent away to live with an aunt for a while,” which was the euphemism of the time for waiting out the baby’s birth in a home for unwed mothers. I wasn’t surprised. That girl never saw her daughter, who was immediately given up for an adoption arranged in advance. When the young mother returned home, the great love had dissipated. Later, she married a nice Jewish boy to whom she disclosed her history. His stoic acceptance reminded me of Herman Wouk’s “Marjorie Morningstar,” a book in which the nice Jewish boy who wanted to marry a woman did so, even after great soul-searching when he learned she was not the virgin he had expected. That’s what, at least, the Jewish mindset was, back in the olden days of the ‘60s.

Truth be told, I never knew a Jewish girl or woman who openly admitted, or even hinted at, the fact she had had an abortion. My friend’s daughter, a Jew, finally met the tall, blond daughter of her first encounter many years later, when both sought birth records at the same time. In this case, that girl became a real sister to the three girls who favored their shorter, dark-haired father.

Not every adoption story turns out so well. But, I suspect that not every post-abortion story — probably not even most of them — ends that happily, either. And, consider this: Long before Roe v. Wade, my husband and I belonged to our synagogue’s Young Couples Club. All of our families were “complete,” we thought, until one of the women confided to us, in tears, during a get-together, that she was pregnant again. We women were consoling her, while the men were congratulating her husband. But not one of us was talking abortion, or even thinking about it.

Today, however, we all have to be thinking about it, and talking about it. I for one, but only for myself, believe I cannot inflict my personal views on any other woman. What do you believe?

Comments (0)

Accepting what life hands you

Posted on 20 May 2019 by admin

My sister turned 80 years old Saturday, May 11. She was born in 1939, four days ahead of Mother’s Day that year. I guess my mother was hoping for a holiday baby who arrived a bit early — the way I felt when my daughter, who the doctors predicted would be born on Valentine’s Day, made an earlier appearance and is instead a February Groundhog. Well, the old saying is correct: Babies are born on their own schedules.
My sister’s life has not been easy. She is bipolar, something my doctor-father identified very early in her life. Along with that identification came my new and continuing job: As the almost-five-years-older sibling in a family that would have no other children, my role became more caretaker than simply “big sister.” In one way or another, even when we have lived far apart, this relationship has continued. It has not been easy for either of us.
I mentioned before that I was immensely privileged to be on the board of an Illinois mental health center when Elizabeth Kubler-Ross M.D., famed author of “On Death and Dying,” became our medical director. I learned about lithium from her. Because of that, my sister was one of the first to be treated with it and described its effects this way: “I don’t have to be cleaning out drawers all the time anymore!”
The drawer cleaning, of course, took place during her manic phases. During the depressions, she would sleep. She was a young woman of immense intelligence and strength, and through it all, a respected teacher of high school history, with specialties in subjects as diverse as Mary Queen of Scots and American trade unions. She never missed a day. But during those depressive times, I had to go from my home to her apartment to drag her out of bed and make sure she would get ready for school. After her college graduation, she had followed me to Chicago so that this would be possible.
My sister has overcome enough of what is a true, but much misunderstood, disability to live an almost normal life. She has three college degrees, including an MBA. She married and has two daughters, both respected professionals. But her behavior is erratic. Currently, she will not speak to one of them; nobody knows why.
My sister has also overcome immense physical problems: two bouts with breast cancer, and a recent major heart valve replacement. That difficult surgery was made even more difficult because the effects of radiation rendered opening her chest impossible; the operation involved threading up through a vein in her leg. She was told in advance that there were no guarantees; this was an elective procedure. But if she elected not to have it, she should go home and make her end-of-life plans immediately. So, she took a chance, survived the operation and came through the long, long rehab that followed.
My sister is now, and always will be, in an assisted-living facility. I talked to her on her birthday. She is not happy. But she gave herself a party, inviting many people she has known for the past 30 years to come and have cake with her. The beautiful cake was a gift from the daughter she still does not speak to.
I write all this to tell you, as I remind myself, that life is always what we get, but never always what we want. I am older than my sister, and healthier than my sister, and still — after all these years, and despite the physical distance between us — remain her primary caretaker. I have lived the role assigned to me almost 80 years ago. I do not complain, because I grew up with our doctor-father’s maxim: “Take whatever life hands you, and do the best you can with it, because that’s all there is.”
This advice has served me well for more than eight decades. Today, I pass it on to you.

Comments (0)

‘The Brink’ fuels Bannon’s media machine

Posted on 25 April 2019 by admin

Several weeks have elapsed since I saw “The Brink,” enough time for me to catch my thoughts and think in terms of commenting on them. By now, you either know Steve Bannon, or you don’t. I recommend you get to know him — for the first time or not — by seeing this film. It should amaze you.
Frankly, I lost track of Bannon soon after he left the Trump White House, after his efforts at fundraising had been so hugely successful. He had other fields to plow. This one-time strategist, banker, news maven, etc., went on another kick, and was just as successful, at least for a while.
How could so many people of great wealth and influence in their own countries fall under Bannon’s spell? He’s not an orator; he’s an under-shaved, overweight man with a big mouth to match his waistline. But when he speaks, certain people like what he says. Those people — many of them here in America — like what he says about creating a populist movement, not “just” to make our country great again a la Trump, but to make it again what it was in its earliest days. These individuals forget they were immigrants themselves, a nation of snowy white Protestants. To them, everyone else, even the Pope, is in the wrong camp. The right one — the only right one — is Bannon’s.
It’s interesting to watch him in this film, as Bannon is being his own overbearing, insulting, abrasive self. You can see him in triumph and in defeat. In truth, both are the same, because he is a true believer in the old, much-debated axiom that any kind of publicity is good, as long as they spell your name correctly. Even the worst publicity is better than none. And, the film shows him getting plenty of both — but mostly of the best, as crowds cheer, raise signs and wear caps left over from the Trump campaign.
You may consider Bannon the hero or the villain of this film, which dares you to differentiate. To me, the real hero, the main figure, doesn’t show her face at all. Alison Klayman, a talented moviemaker, somehow managed to get her subject to agree to this. She had permission to follow him everywhere — on airplanes, to stage appearances, in private conferences with a few world bigwigs, and as his lone self on the telephone, berating others with words I dare not put into print here. At first, I wondered how she accomplished this feat, which I thought then was a miracle. Later, I realized this film is in total agreement with his love of publicity. As long as he is center stage — in the center of a real stage, or sitting by himself with a telephone resting on his saggy belly as he roars into its mouthpiece — he’s getting the publicity he craves, and loves. For a while, I actually wondered if Klayman sold her soul to the devil for this opportunity. How naïve I was.
I have a dear old friend who has always been a student of politics. “I think Bannon really believes the stuff that he spews out,” is his opinion. “He wants to be seen as the prophetic visionary of what he imagines is ahead: His dream, fully realized. He is the American John the Baptist.”
But it’s not his dream just for America, but for the whole world. In this film, you see him in action to sell the dream to the public, with many successes. He is brought down, in the end, but is off again. Not on screen, but in public, continuing to bring his message of “populism” —rule by people he thinks are fit to rule — to everyone who will listen. And who won’t? He’s compelling just because he is so much a figure you wouldn’t believe anyone would believe: An unshaved, overweight slob with a big mouth — who, for better or worse, knows how to use it.

Comments (0)

View or Subscribe to the
Texas Jewish Post

Advertise Here

Photos from our Flickr stream

See all photos

Advertise Here